From dreams to reality; from luxury to a necessity, studying outside of our home-ground has been a part of Indian families from a really long time. From historical individuals like Mahatma Gandhi, to possibly fictional characters of Devdas, we have all seen people transport to a new country to grow in career opportunities and skills. For some this is one of the most important ways to grow in global exposure, as well as a new chapter to their life… While doing so, we sometimes reach a position of how to and where to start with this important transition.
Let’s consider the top 10 significant points to think before going abroad –
1. Education choice -
Since the purpose of the trip and the heavy investment is for your education, this holds the vital position in any of our thoughts. It is important to consider various tangents to the education that you are planning to study; Firstly, what is your background and how is it connected to what you are going to learn, make sure your choice of education helps you to grow beyond your current knowledge and career base. Secondly, identify how deep is your inclination in this subject and the professions that come as a part of the package. A lot of students tend to take up a particular field of study or career choice since they know of seniors or relatives who have achieved success with this choice. It is important to note that technology and skill demand is a process of continuous growth. But if you are really passionate about the program, then you will find ways to make the most of your knowledge. Don’t let a current scope and demand in a field sway your life making decision.
The education system in the country where you hail from mostly has a different pattern and it is best to get a hang of it before hand by checking the curriculum, speaking to seniors from the same university or same program. For countries where English is not the first language, it is highly recommended to get at least the basic hang of the language to be able to communicate with the locals and it is always beneficial for your job placements as well.
2. Job -
While selecting a course program, remember that it is important to identify the return of investment of the entire expenses that you take up. Look for programs that will give you growth from the current place you are at, academically as well as professionally. Employment to get a salary is one thing, but make sure it adds value to your Resume as well. Your career graph depends on it. Network with professionals in the field, it is time to graduate from Facebook to LinkedIn. Ask for opinions and experiences.
3. Why abroad?
Other than the fact that a lot of people wish to study abroad purely influenced by tradition of their family, friends, or a half-baked sugar-coated carrot, it is important to note what it has in store for you. Other than high opportunity for jobs, it gives you excellent coursework, exceptional faculty and most updated technological advancements. Do not forget the non-traditional practical application and exposure to projects than just text books as well as the global experience of the various nationalities and cultures of the world. This is a moment to understand how one can absorb from the best of the world to suit us.
4. Location –
Although location is important when considering job prospects, do not compromise on coursework or university for the possible job prospects of that city or state. You can always move to another state for your jobs, we are nomads in this foreign country anyway. Remember, higher chances of jobs also mean higher competition, so think wisely and act smartly.
5. Food –
One of the most important and valid concerns are of food. Parents are worried too about their children and their food habits, especially for vegans, vegetarians and Jain communities. At the expense of sounding full of pride, let me remind you of how we as Indians have maintained a good presence in every country of the world, especially these countries where education and job opportunities are high. There are options for Vegans and vegetarians, and most cities in the USA have a sizeable amount of Jains where roommates can be decided on the basis of food habits. Although there are little to none possibilities of Jain food availability outside, a few places can help customize your meal on the request of avoiding specific ingredients. Same goes with students who may have allergies, like of nuts and gluten, a request will help avoid such ingredients.
For the matter of carrying food material, yes you may carry pickles and homemade masalas, but they should be strictly in air tight packaging to avoid spillage.
6. Excess packaging –
Although when traveling abroad after living most of our childhood and early adulthood in India, we would want to take everything that makes us feel at home in another country, but it is important to carry only as much as essential to us. Clothes, especially winter wear, are best bought from the destination on the basis of the weather there as the clothes in India are designed to suit the weather here. Foodstuff should be limited to only as much as needed for the week or two after you arrive so that you have enough time to explore things around you to fill your groceries for the future.
7. Culture shock –
Every country has a different way of living and they have been born and brought up in this particular fashion. This differs from what we experience on a daily basis at our home. It is good to mix and mingle, but it also important to see that we care for their rituals and habits and that we do not force upon others, our ways of life. It is good to be aware of the local culture a bit beforehand so that we do not end up offending someone by use of language or actions which may be common and normal to us. Avoid racial or physical stereotyping at all costs, and if you face some your way, there are legal disciplinary actions that can be taken against such offences, rather than getting involved in it yourself.
8. Traveling with Money –
Carry currency in such a manner that does not call for mischief from others around you. Always be aware of your surroundings. It is safe to carry a few notes in cash and then in travel cards to make sure that they are safe and usable at the place of your choice. Traveller’s cheques are almost phased out and are not acceptable at most destinations.
9. Maps/apps –
While trying to take account of and exploring your surroundings, carry road maps as well as maps of the transport system. It makes things easy for you in the beginning as locations are well mapped and logged in the maps. Remember to carry a set of comfy walking shoes, as even if you are lost at any place, at least your feet are tired! Smartphones are well equipped with map applications and road maps that direct you real time and are almost 99% accurate.
10. Documentation -
Carry a set of photocopies of your I20/admit letter from the university, your passport at all times until the first few days. Your University ID card can replace that at a later stage. Carry some photocopies of your academic documentation as well. Your bank details and documents must be safely stored with you at a location easily accessible only to you.
The take away from this article is this, 11th bonus point, now is the time to be responsible and mature. Out of the safety and protection of our family, this maybe your first stint as an individual, take account of everything you do and remember to be safe than sorry. While sounding preachy, I will end this article with one small piece of advice,
Never Assume, Always research, Be prepared and also Be ready for the unexpected.
- Anagha Bailur, (Sr. Counsellor, Imperial Overseas)